This NOAA/RAMMB satellite image taken at 12:15:31 UTC on September 10, 2018, shows Hurricane Florence off the US east coast in the Atantic Ocean. (AFP PHOTO / NOAA/RAMMB)
President Donald Trump tweeted out a message to residents in the storm's path, urging them to heed the warnings of state and local officials.
"To the incredible citizens of North Carolina, South Carolina and the entire East Coast - the storm looks very bad!" wrote the president, who cancelled a planned rally Friday in Jackson, Mississippi in light of the approaching storm.
"Please take all necessary precautions. We have already began mobilising our assets to respond accordingly, and we are here for you!"
At a hardware store in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, store manager John Johnson said the rush on batteries, flashlights, plastic tarps and sandbags began Friday.
"From eight o'clock 'til two we were slammed," said Johnson, who sold scores of bags of sand over the weekend, saving just a few to barricade the store's own doors.
"We were non-stop."